It was 31 years ago today that Scott E. Fahlman posted the first-ever smiley-face emoticon online. Fahlman, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, proposed his smiley idea on a message board where a group was discussing how to convey humour in electronic communications, way back in September 1982.
Here's what he wrote (including the invention of the frowny face, naturally):
19-Sep-82 11:44 Scott E Fahlman :-)
From: Scott E Fahlman <Fahlman at Cmu-20c>
I propose that the following character sequence for joke markers:
Read it sideways. Actually, it is probably more economical to mark
things that are NOT jokes, given current trends. For this, use
Fahlman has done a lot of other work over his 40-plus year career, most of it dealing with artificial intelligence systems. But he's best known for inventing the smiley face, a fact he seems to have a sense of humour about.
Head over to the Carnegie Mellon website to read a post by Fahlman about the history of the invention, as well as the "archeological dig" to find the original thread where he posted the message. He also weighs in on the pressing question of whether the smiley face is a bad thing for the English language. It turns out, he kind of thinks it is. :-(